Anyone who listens to sports talk radio in this town has experienced first hand the acrimonious relationship that the Padres have with some of its fans. Sometimes it seems like instead of the Padres organization, that my radio dial has slipped to a political talk station and the subject at hand is the Bush Administration. What fuels this is not just the Padres themselves, both on and off the field, but also a local news media who seems more than willing to play into that fan discontent. Instead of actually reporting on the team, some in the local media seem content to step into the role of “Hacksaw caller”.
Take for example John Howard, Channel 8’s weekend sports anchor who offered the following as his introduction to the “Padres coverage” of the day.
“When the Padres won the National League West in 2006, one of the promising performances was that of rookie second baseman Josh Barfield. The Padres rewarded Barfield and the fans for his fine season by sending him to Cleveland in exchange for Kevin Kouzmanoff“
If this is how the local media reports on the team its no wonder that it seems that the average San Diegan takes a highly cynical view of the Padres. Aside from the actual content of the quote, which is based on a laughably inaccurate premise as it is, what is more important is to examine the attitude behind it. I don’t disagree that the Padres have given fans cause for frustration, but I take tremendous issue with both this quote itself and the attitude that comes with it.
First, lets examine the actual content. He’s talking about a trade that happened 3 years ago when the Padres traded a “fan favorite”, obviously because they hate the fans. I’m no Kouz fan, but lets be fair here, Kevin Kouzmanoff was ten times better and more valuable than Barfield over those 3 years. Instead of praising the Padres for what turned out to be a great deal; there’s no way you could have traded Barfield for Scott Hairston and prospect Aaron Cunningham this offseason, they use it as another chance to turn the knife in the backs of the Padres simply because it’s the “popular” thing to do in this town. What’s more important though is the attitude behind it, and its not just John Howard, but it permeates much of the local coverage of the Padres.
“The fans are frustrated, they have every right to vent their frustrations”, you might say. But is this level of frustration completely justified? If you look back over the past 10-15 years, among the losing seasons we’ve had winning seasons, playoffs, and not to mention a beautiful new ballpark opened. I realize that some fans will see the ballpark opening as a negative rather than a positive, but that’s a subject for its own column. The fact is that the Padres have had the normal ups and downs that nearly every sports franchise in America has experienced over the same time span. Certainly not perfect, but in no way does it justify the general attitude, the seething anger of the fans in this town.
The main cause for frustration should be the Moores’ divorce, which gut the payroll and caused a sale of the team that could be drawn out over as many as 5 years. This attitude I am talking about however has been in San Diego for years, well before the Moores’ divorce. It was there during back to back division championships, and even while the Padres won more games than those division championship teams.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new regime in town making major changes. You would never know though as the coverage of the team offered after the Barfield comment consisted of a 20 second clip of Nick Hundley talking about Yorvit Torrealba, and then on to some golf story or dolphins dressing up as people or something.
This doesn’t mean the coverage of the Padres ought to be always lengthy and glowing, constantly extolling the virtues of every move the Padres make or the every utterance from the mouths of Jed Hoyer. Just please be responsible and accurate. You want to talk about problems, about fan frustration? Talk about the team’s failed drafts, and about the lack of organization building that has gone on. Talk about and educate the fans about what it takes for a small to mid market team to be successful, there are plenty of good examples. And then examine and report on whether the front office is doing those things.
We should all as fans welcome negative reporting about the team, as long as it is accurate and comes from a background of knowledge. This kind of reporting would improve the baseball atmosphere in this town and push the Padres as an organization in the right direction. On the other hand, inaccurate hit-pieces, the perpetuation of myths and misdirected fan anger based on false premises merely engenders a poor understanding of everything having to do with the Padres and baseball. In that case it actually becomes destructive and ultimately hurts the fans of the Padres. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this team for the future, but are they being reported on?
If the atmosphere in San Diego for baseball is going to improve its going to take more than winning seasons, we’ve actually had those and they didn’t help. In addition to winning, it would be nice if the local stations that get the most viewership had reporters that actually cared about the game, who displayed the kind of knowledge of a fan who goes to 25 games and not 4 or 5 games a year. And the Padres need more coverage than they devote to the Charger Girls, let alone the Chargers. I know the Chargers won all of those Super Bowls, but there’s no reason for Nick Canepa to act as if the friar ate his prised collie. Did the dancing groundskeeper steal Darren Smith’s girlfriend?
In reality, the Chargers’ struggles over the years have been much like the Padres, not coming through in the big games, and yet its only the Chargers who get a pass. It has everything to do with a knowledge and desire to cover the home team accurately and fairly. We have great coverage of the Chargers, accurate and fair, backed by a knowledge of the team and the NFL. But Padres fans are being done a disservice by the local coverage of the Padres, where a team that draws an average of about 2 million fans a year is an afterthought in the local media who seems more intent on promoting fan anger than actually doing any reporting.
This is a guest post written by Padre Homer. He, Ray, and Melvin are friends and have been talking Padres baseball for a long time.